Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/91

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73
SPORTIVE IMITATION.

native boys and girls.[1] Now it is quite a usual thing in the world for a game to outlive the serious practice of which it is an imitation. The bow and arrow is a conspicuous instance. Ancient and widespread in savage culture, we trace this instrument through barbaric and classic life and onward to a high mediæval level. But now, when we look on at an archery meeting, or go by country lanes at the season when toy bows and arrows are 'in' among the children, we see, reduced to a mere sportive survival, the ancient weapon which among a few savage tribes still keeps its deadly place in the hunt and the battle. The cross-bow, a comparatively late and local improvement on the long- bow, has disappeared yet more utterly from practical use; but as a toy it is in full European service, and likely to remain so. For antiquity and wide diffusion in the world, through savage up to classic and mediæval times, the sling ranks with the bow and arrow. But in the middle ages it fell out of use as a practical weapon, and it was all in vain that the 15th century poet commended the art of slinging among the exercises of a good soldier: —

'Use eek the cast of stone, with slynge or honde: It falleth ofte, yf other shot there none is, Men harneysed in steel may not withstonde, The multitude and mighty cast of stonys; And stonys in effecte, are every where, And slynges are not noyous for to beare.'[2]

Perhaps as serious a use of the sling as can now be pointed out without the limits of civilization is among the herdsmen of Spanish America, who sling so cleverly that the saying is they can hit a beast on either horn and turn him which way they will. But the use of the rude old weapon is especially kept up by boys at play, who are here again the representatives of remotely ancient culture.

As games thus keep up the record of primitive warlike

1 Oldfield in 'Tr. Eth. Soc.' vol. iii. p. 266; Dumont d'Urville, 'Voy. de l'Astrolabe,' vol. i. p. 411.

2 Strutt, 'Sports and Pastimes,' book ii. chap. ii.

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